The 24th APEC leaders’ summit will be held on Nov 19 and 20 in Peruvian capital Lima. Leaders and representatives from the 21 member economies will attend the meeting － the highest-level economic forum in the Asia-Pacific region, and work together to chart pathways for cooperation. The meeting is expected to offer new opportunities for regional economic integration.
The theme of the Lima summit is “Quality Growth and Human Development”, and the key topics include promoting regional economic integration, improving regional food market, upgrading and modernizing small and medium-sized enterprises, and promoting human capital development. Regional economic integration will top the agenda of the APEC summit, and the theme and topics for this meeting are important against the backdrop of the current global economic situation.
Globalization and regional economic integration have fast-tracked since the 1980s, and all economies have become increasingly interdependent. That has helped drive the development of the global economy, which is still plagued by the lingering impact of the 2008 global financial crisis. A slow and fragile recovery is in process. Factors that complicate the recovery include weak driving forces for growth, lackluster demand, a turbulent market and sluggish global trade and investment. Furthermore, this year globalization and regional economic integration have run into strong headwinds, as populism and protectionism are on the rise and gaining momentum in some countries.
The Asia-Pacific region accounts for 60% of the global economy and 46% of the world’s trade. In 2015, economic growth in the region was 60% faster than the global average. This means that the region is a real driving force of the global economy, and shoulders an unshirkable responsibility in promoting economic integration. APEC, as the highest level, the most extensive and the most influential economic cooperation mechanism, has been following the trends in supporting multilateral trade and in upholding the open regionalism, and has been unswervingly promoting regional economic integration as the foundation for all cooperation. At the Lima summit, APEC once again highlights regional economic integration as one of the key topics, and this shows the resolve of all member economies in jointly coping with the challenges and following the road of openness and development.
Whenever APEC’s regional economic integration is mentioned, it would be natural to link it with the proposed Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific. This is the most extensive and inclusive free-trade arrangement among all APEC members, and is a commonly recognized major instrument to regional economic integration. It has direct bearing on the long-term development and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region.
In 2014, leaders at the APEC meeting held in Beijing agreed to launch the process of the FTAAP, opening a chapter for the Asia-Pacific economic cooperation. The summit endorsed the Beijing Roadmap to push forward the FTAAP process, and set the course for comprehensive and systematic promotion of the FTAAP. According to the roadmap, a collective strategic study on the FTAAP should be wrapped up and submitted, together with action plans, to the Lima meeting. The report of the collective strategic study will not only be an important achievement of the Lima meeting, but also a milestone in the FTAAP process. All members will, based on the report, discuss following action plans and jointly chart pathways for cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.
Regional economic integration is the top priority for the APEC. At a time when the Asia-Pacific economic cooperation is at an important crossroads, the Lima meeting will urge new progress in the FTAAP and bring new opportunities for the long-term development and prosperity of the region.
The APEC meeting in Lima, just on the heels of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, is expected to echo the Hangzhou Consensus, particularly with regard to the principles for “open, inclusive and innovative growth”. The meeting is expected to promote strong trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, and develop partnerships characterized by inter-connectivity, unity, consultation, development and shared benefits.
So expectations are high for the APEC Lima meeting.